The Tingler (1959)
Reviewed on 2010 February 2
Hilarious B-movie from William Castle, lacking something in the Percepto™-free transition to DVD but still a hoot. They don’t make ’em like this — or Castle — any more.
Dr. Warren Chapin (the one and only Vincent Price) is a pathologist pondering the question of fear itself — can someone literally be scared to death? He notices that the spines of many of the people he autopsies are brutally compressed, and he theorizes that fear can be so great that it actually take on a life of its own. He calls this thing The Tingler, and theorizes that it lives on adrenaline. He has a hard time studying this for one simple reason: a good scream somehow stops the thing cold. As fate would have it he one day pulls an actual Tingler, looking for all the world like a lobster that swam in nuclear waste water, from someone’s spine. If you can’t or won’t scream, you die. If you can scream the quality of your adrenaline changes: You taste about as good as a week-old Happy Meal® to the Tingler, and are apparently as toxic, because the thing falls off, paralyzed. Once it recovers, it creeps off on its little rubber feet to feed off some other poor slob.
I can only imagine a big-screen showing of this thing, with the theater seats rigged to buzz and people screaming their lungs out to avoid being Tingler Chow. Perhaps it’s a good thing Castle was more of a showman than a director of truly scary movies. If he put Percepto buzzers under the seats during something like the spider walk scene in The Exorcist he might well have had to make good on some of those novelty life insurance policies. As it is the movie is a fun rubber monster flick from the ’50s, and worth getting the anniversary edition DVD if you’re a movie buff.
Two chocolate morsels. Very silly, but you have to give it credit for its originality.